In a Monday morning announcement that was long anticipated but not widely welcomed by environmentalists, President Barack Obama tapped Ernest Moniz, director of the Energy Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as the nominee for the next secretary of energy.

“Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate," Obama said during a press conference on Monday morning announcing Moniz's nomination, along with his other picks, including Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

While some environmental groups cheered the pending nomination, others have expressed deep concern over Moniz due to his outspoken support of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, better known as fracking. Some critics have gone as far as to call him a "shill" for the shale gas industry.

A 2011 MIT study led by Moniz hailed natural gas as the "bridge to a low-carbon future." The research, as The Huffington Post reported last week, received financial support from oil and gas companies.

Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University, said that the controversial report was just one example of what he calls "frackademia" -- pro-fracking studies coming out of institutions like SUNY Buffalo and the University of Texas at Austin that are later found to have been supported by industry. But MIT, being "the best tech institute in the country and the wellspring of many fantastic people," he said, seems to "get a pass."

Ingraffea's own fracking research comes to a starkly different conclusion -- that natural gas could be a bigger climate-changer than coal. It was largely funded by a foundation that has supported anti-fracking groups.

"No one is alleging that Moniz has personally financially gained directly from moneys from the oil and gas industry for fracking studies," said Ingraffea. However, he added, the study does raise concerns over whether or not any actions were taken that "benefited the people paying, despite knowing those actions were not in the best interest of the public, students, his university or the country."

"It's difficult," he added. "How do you determine that?"

Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity shared similar disapproval with the possibility of a a Moniz-led Energy Department in a February statement.

"We're concerned that, as energy secretary, Ernest Moniz may take a politically expedient view of harmful fracking and divert resources from solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources vital to avoiding climate disaster," said Snape. "We're also concerned that Moniz would be in a position to delay research into the dangers fracking poses to our air, water and climate."

"His appointment to the DOE could set renewable energy development back years," said a statement released by Food and Water Watch, which also circulated a petition opposing Moniz's nomination.

In addition to fracking, Moniz is also an ardent proponent of nuclear power -- another sticking point among some environmentalists.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) plans to question Moniz on the polluted Hanford nuclear site in Washington State, where waste tanks may be leaking 1,000 gallons of waste per year, reported The Hill. Moniz wrote in November 2011 that "it would be a mistake" to let "Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits."

"Nuclear power's track record of providing clean and reliable electricity compares favorably with other energy sources," Moniz wrote.

Still, many environmental experts and advocates have also highlighted Moniz's track record of concern for climate change and emphasis on renewable energy and innovation, and some were hopeful that the nominee's experience and track record would help him accomplish more in the secretary of energy position.

As Obama said on Monday, Moniz "already knows his way around the Department of Energy."

The physicist, well-known for his over-the-ears hairstyle, served as an undersecretary of energy during the Clinton administration. For the past four years, he has served on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

"Ernie is really a big-picture guy," Rosina Bierbaum, a fellow PCAST member and an environmental-policy expert at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, recently told Nature. "He can talk the details of science far better than most of us, but he never ever gets lost in the weeds."

The Natural Resource Defense Council also welcomed the nomination to replace Steven Chu, who plans to return to Stanford, as "good news."

"Professor Moniz has the hands-on experience and the expertise needed to help further the climate and energy goals our country urgently needs," Frances Beinecke, president of the group, said in a statement on Monday.

Moniz's hands may very well be full, and the pressure on him high, as the U.S. faces a series of important decisions that could affect the country's -- and the world's -- future economic, environmental and energy landscapes.

"I have a set of adjectives and nouns to describe the energy business -- it's a highly capitalized, multi-trillion dollar per year commodity business in the sense that when we flick the switch on, we don't see whether it came from a coal plant or solar panel," Moniz told the Switch Energy Project last year. "It serves every activity in society. It therefore does, and always will, invite extensive regulation and very complex politics."

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  • British police secure the area where demonstrators erected a mock fracking rig with a banner reading 'No fracking in the UK' in a protest against hydraulic fracturing for shale gas outside the Houses of Parliament in London on December 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS

  • SPRINGVILLE, PA - JANUARY 18: A truck with the natural gas industry, one of thousands that pass through the area daily, drives through the countryside to a hydraulic fracturing site on January 18, 2012 in Springville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 30: Protestors stage a demonstration against fracking in California outside of the Hiram W. Johnson State Office Building on May 30, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Dozens of protesters with the group Californians Against Fracking staged a protest outside of California Gov. Jerry Brown's San Francisco offices demanding that Gov. Brown ban fracking in the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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  • In this Nov. 26, 2012 photo, Steve Lipsky demonstrates how his well water ignites when he puts a flame to the flowing well spigot outside his family's home in rural Parker County near Weatherford, Texas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had evidence a gas company's drilling operation contaminated Lipsky's drinking water with explosive methane, and possibly cancer-causing chemicals, but withdrew its enforcement action, leaving the family with no useable water supply, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press. The EPA's decision to roll back its initial claim that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” operations had contaminated the water is the latest case in which the federal agency initially linked drilling to water contamination and then softened its position, drawing criticism from Republicans and industry officials who insisted they proved the agency was inefficient and too quick to draw conclusions. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

  • In this file photo of Jan. 17, 2013, Yoko Ono, left, and her son Sean Lennon visit a fracking site in Franklin Forks, Pa., during a bus tour of natural-gas drilling sites in northeastern Pennsylvania. Ono and Lennon have formed a group called “Artists Against Fracking,” which has become the main celebrity driven anti-fracking organization. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

  • In this March 29, 2013 file photo, a worker checks a dipstick to check water levels and temperatures in a series of tanks at a hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas drilling site outside Rifle, Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

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  • In this March 29, 2013 file photo, workers tend to a well head during a hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas well outside Rifle, in western Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Josh Fox, director of the anti-fracking, Oscar-nominated documentary “Gasland” testifies during a House Committee hearing on oil drilling, "fracking" legislation at the Illinois State Capitol Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • This is a Thursday Aug. 15, 2013 image of the Cuadrilla exploration drilling site in Balcombe, southeast England. (AP Photo/Gareth Fuller/PA)

  • A child plays near a farmers' protest in an area where oil company Chevron plans to put a drilling rig exploring for shale gas in the south-eastern Polish village of Zurawlow on June 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

  • Protesters hold a banner during a protest outside of the Momentive resin plant, Monday, July 8, 2013, in Morganton, N.C. Dozens of environmental activists blocked a chemical plant Monday to protest against the company's sale of products used in the natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. (AP Photo/The News Herald, Mary Elizabeth Robertson)

  • A fracking rig exploring for shale gas of oil company Chevron on June 11, 2013 in a village of Ksiezomierz in south-eastern Poland. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

  • People demonstrate on August 3, 2013 in La Petite Brosse, near Jouarre, outside Paris, to protest against an exploratory oil shale drilling, considering that it opens the door to the exploration of shale gas in the Parisian Basin. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU

  • Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in New York state attend a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on January 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch attends a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in New York State on January 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Opponents and supporters of gas-drilling, or fracking, walk into the last of four public hearings on proposed fracking regulations in upstate New York on November 30, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

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  • Engineers look at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • A lump of shale rock on display at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

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  • Actor/director Mark Ruffalo (C) speaks at the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)

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